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Archives 03-28-2007

Sports

Both Eldridge twins now have championships
Jr. Cats win 3 of 4 games on week
LA Wildcats defeat Pickett County Bobcats 12-2

 

Both Eldridge twins now have championships

Mark and Matt Eldridge display their basketball and football state championship trophies.

By MAC McLEOD,
OCN Sports

Who would have ever thought that two twin brothers from the Overton County community of Hilham would one day grow up and coach two State of Tennessee high school championship teams?

Probably not many, but that’s what has happened. The twin brothers of Matt and Mark Eldridge are now proud holders of two of the state’s top high school honors. Two years ago, Matt coached the Livingston Academy Wildcats to the state 3A football championship in Murfreesboro, and this year, his twin brother Mark led his Maryville team to the Class AAA basketball title.

“I’m so proud of him,” Matt said. “Heck, when we were kids growing up, we never got to go anywhere. We went to Beech Bend Park in Kentucky once, and that was about it. Now we have both been to Murfreesboro and come home with state championships.”

No one knows how rare it is for brothers to capture state titles, and the number is even smaller when you consider twin brothers.

“When we were growing up we were enemies, I guess you could say,” Mark points out. “We were very competitive of each other, but once we started coaching it all changed, and now were are each other’s biggest fan. When Matt won the football title, I went to every game except the Catholic game (in Knoxville). I had a basketball game that night, but I had a student over there calling me on the phone on every play.”

At Livingston Academy, both Matt and Mark played just about every sport, and in basketball they were a part of the team that went to the final four. It’s the best showing of an LA team to date.

“We played on the team with Danny McCoin, Tim Vaughn, Jeff Hummell and others and we lost by one point to Memphis East in the semi finals,” Mark recalled. “Memphis went on to win championship that year.

“I played football for three years, but broke my collar bone twice my senior year, so I decided to stick with basketball. It wasn’t quite as rough.”

After high school, the Eldridge twins went their separate ways. Matt went to Tennessee Tech and Mark headed for Bethel College. Both went on scholarships and both stayed in sports until Matt retired two years ago.

“It was our only way out,” Matt recalled. “Athletics was our ticket to higher education, and we are both very thankful for that. Our parents were hard working people, but had it not been for athletics, I don’t know where we would have ended up.

“And for both of us to win a state championship is kinda exciting,” the former LA head coach added. “Naturally, we had great kids, great assistant coaches, super fans, and a lot of help from the Lord above. It’s kinda cool though.”

While Matt got the opportunity to return to his old high school, Mark traveled a little further east. His first coaching job was at Oneida then Anderson County. It was only last August that he took the position at Maryville.

“The head coach at Maryville took a leave of absence and they called me to see if I was interested in the job,” Mark recalled. “My wife worked at Maryville College, and although I was totally happy at Anderson County, I just felt this was a job I couldn’t turn down. Maryville has always been known for its outstanding athletes, and this year they didn’t disappoint anyone.

“We had a good start to the season, then we dropped two straight and we started questioning ourselves,” Mark continued. “We had a team meeting and asked our kids to step up and take a leadership role, and they did and it paid off.

“We went 30-7 last year and we have some outstanding players returning. Will we get back to Murfreesboro? I don’t know, but we’ll give it our best shot.”

It’s been 25 years now since the Eldridge twins graduated from Livingston Academy, and both have been very successful in their chosen fields. Matt has his state football trophy and now Mark can bring his basketball trophy to the family reunions.

“I don’t mind going to the family reunion now,” Mark said with a laugh.

“Now we can both pat each other on the back. They say twins have a unique bonding like no other siblings, and with a pair of state championships, there might just be something to that. I know I felt Matt’s and I think he truly feels mine.”

 

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Jr. Cats win 3 of 4 games on week

Overton County’s Jr. Wildcats baseball team won three of four games played last week, evening their season mark at 4-4.

The Jr. Cats opened their week at home with a double-header against Cornerstone.

With a solid pitching effort from Hayden Hill and Colby Reeder, the Jr. Cats won the first game 6-4.

Reeder, Justin Savage, and Lucas Dailey all chipped in with timely hits to contribute to the win.

Game 2 was won by Cornerstone, 12-3, as the Jr. Cats played many of their younger players. Savage and Justin Timmons had 2 hits in the game.

The Jr. Cats’ second double-header of the week came against Monterey.
Overton County dominated the first game, winning convincingly 12-1.

Reeder was the winning pitcher, recording 7 strikeouts in three innings.

Savage and Justin Perdue provided the offensive punch with 2 hits each.

Game 2 was also a win for the Jr. Cats.

Josh Johnson was the winning pitcher as he struck out 8 batters.

Johnson, Hill, Reeder, and Savage had 2 hits each on the offensive side.

Justin Savage hit .778 on the week. The team hit .410 for the week.

 

 

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LA Wildcats defeat Pickett County Bobcats 12-2

Dewain E. Peek/OCN Sports
LA pitcher Todd Smith fires a pitch in Friday’s win over Pickett County. Smith struck out 12 in the game, and struck out the side in the third and fifth innings.

By DEWAIN E. PEEK,
OCN Sports

Livingston Academy’s Wildcats baseball team won the first game of the season Friday, March 23 against Pickett County’s Bobcats.

Coach Pat Swallows said, “Todd Smith threw for the first time and really did a great job.”

Smith struck out 12 Bobcats in a 5-inning “run rule” shortened game.

LA put 12 runs on the board against 2 for the Byrdstown team.

“We were swinging our bats and making our plays,” Coach Swallows said. “Of course, when you strike out 12, that helps as well.”

The junior struck out the side in the third inning and again in the fifth inning.

“They only had 15 hitters go to the plate,” Coach Swallows said of the Pickett County team.

Andrew Neff hit his first home run in the game.

“We feel like, hopefully, we’re turning the corner and getting to where we need to be, putting some things together,” Coach Swallows said. “We just need to eliminate those critical mistakes.”

Critical mistakes marred the other three games the Wildcats played last week, each a loss that was very close to being a victory.

The week started with a District 7-AA game against Macon County in Lafayette on Monday, March 19. The Tigers defeated the Cats 4-1.

After a leadoff home run by the host team, LA tied the game in the second inning.

Then the Tigers took the lead again after the Cats had them on the ropes. With 2 out and runners on second and third, LA failed to scoop a ground ball at the shortstop, and 2 Macon runs came in. Another mistake, this time at third base, and another Macon run came home. All 3 of those runs were unearned.

Andrew Neff took the loss on the mound for LA.

“He did a good job after that first hitter,” Coach Swallows said. “Andrew did a good job and deserved better than what he got. But we played better than we had.”

Macon County was scheduled to play at LA the following day, but the game was rained out. LA hosted the Tigers on Wednesday, March 21 instead.

“Clint Durham pitched a great game,” Coach Swallows said. “We had a 5-4 lead with 2 outs in the seventh, and 2 strikes on the hitter. We were one pitch away from our first victory.

“The kid at bat had looked pretty bad on a curve ball on the pitch before, so I went ahead and called another curve ball, and the guy just stayed back and drove it to the right side and tied the game up.

“Then we made an error that allowed them to get other baserunners on; and then they got another big hit and ended up beating us 7-5.”

Coach Swallows said the team still moved forward despite the loss.

“We made strides,” he said. “We’re getting better. We only made a couple of errors in that game, but they ended up being really crucial ones.”

The Wildcats traveled to Sparta the next day to take on the White County Warriors. Griffin Lee appeared to be ready to go back on the mound for LA.

“He’s been hurt and hasn’t had a chance to throw much,” Coach Swallows said.

The rust was evident as he gave up 8 runs in 2/3 of the first inning.

“We got ourselves in a hole right off the bat,” Coach Swallows said.

The Cats were down, but they were not quite out.

“We ended up not quitting, not giving up, got a little fire going and ended up getting beat 11-8,” Coach Swallows said. “At one point, we cut the lead to 8-6, and were swinging the bats pretty good and playing a little better defense.”

Not only was the coach impressed by his team’s tenacious attitude, he was also impressed by the freshman pitcher he put on the mound to relieve the embattled senior.

Shawn Walthall manned the mound from the first inning into the sixth, and did not give up a run until 3 Warriors crossed the plate in the sixth.

“We were one pitch away from getting out of that situation with no runs scored,” Coach Swallows said. “Shawn really, really did a good job.”

Looking back on the week’s games, Coach Swallows said, “It was a pretty unusual week. We started turning the corner and getting a little better, but we ended up making some critical mistakes and decisions, and not getting the big hit when we needed to, that ended up costing us a couple of games that we really should have won.”

After hosting Smith County on Monday, March 26 and travelling to Carthage to play the Owls again the following day, Livingston Academy will host Jackson County on Thursday, March 29 in a 5:30 p.m. game. The junior varsity is set to play at 4 p.m.

The Cats will travel to Byrdstown to play Pickett County at 5 p.m. Friday, March 30, then will face Upperman the next Monday and Tuesday in District 7-AA action.

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Overton County News
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